Tag Archives: #savethemonarch

Planting for pollinators at a Philly landmark

As warmer weather arrives in the Northeast, flowers and trees are blooming and pollinating insects are emerging. What better time to continue our project installing a pollinator garden at Independence National Historical Park! While bees, moths, and flies are enjoying the spring weather, monarch butterflies are making their journey north from Mexico and should be arriving in areas throughout the Northeast in about a month! The monarchs arriving will be the offspring of monarchs that overwintered in Mexico, and will use this garden and others like it. Be sure to plant milkweed for monarchs!


Student Conservation Association Community Crews with their completed garden

Last month, we partnered with our friends at the National Park Service to begin work with Student Conservation Association community crews on phase one of this project. The garden will provide wildlife-friendly green space for people, as well as habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators. In addition to great habitat, this garden will be a useful tool in reaching the community and its visitors to share the importance of pollinators, especially for our nation’s agricultural crops. It will also extend the reach of John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge further into the city, providing an opportunity for people to learn more about wildlife conservation, especially those who may not normally not get a chance to visit the refuge in southwest Philly.

On our first days at the garden, we tackled weeds and demolished the garden’s existing English ivy. Most recently, community crews returned to plant the native wildflowers for our local pollinators.

Planting begins!

Planting begins!

The morning was very busy as we worked to distribute mulch and prepare the ground for plants.


Spreading mulch….and taking a few pics!

After lunch, we transitioned into planting the native wildflowers! Hundreds of plugs were carefully laid out and planted. While these plugs look little now, beebalm, irises, asters and more will soon populate the entire space. The flowers were carefully selected to be several different colors and bloom throughout the spring, summer, and fall. This will attract many different species of pollinators and ensure they have food throughout the year.

Plugs laid out for planting.

Plugs laid out for planting.


Transplanting young plants can be delicate work and the students took it seriously.

Right now, we wait. We’re watering the plants and checking their progress; they seem to be doing okay. Check out the different stages of the garden below and stay tuned for the next installment!

Click here to learn more about you can help monarchs and other pollinators.

A Place for Pollinators at Independence Hall

With help from the National Park Service, staff from John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum and our Student Conservation Association community crews have begun the first phase of a pollinator garden project at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia!  This garden will extend the reach of the refuge further into the city, and will provide a chance for people to learn more about the Fish and Wildlife Service, especially those who may not normally not get a chance to visit the refuge. Located behind the Free Quaker Meeting House, visitors to Independence Hall will also be able to enjoy a pollinator friendly garden as well as a shaded place to rest during their tours at the park.

SCA Crew Leaders Chuck Lafferty and Terry Williams working with interns to remove ivy.

SCA Crew Leaders Chuck Lafferty and Terry Williams working with interns to remove ivy.

Crews, leaders, and partners worked all morning to extract the previously existing shrubs and debris to prepare the site for planting flowers in April. Throughout the day, crews worked diligently to loosen soil, pull weeds, and trim trees. The biggest challenge of the day was removing a large patch of English Ivy, a stubborn plant capable of resprouting from the tiniest root left behind in the soil.

SCA Philadelphia/Camden interns showing their work .

SCA Philadelphia/Camden interns showing their work .

After working up an appetite, the crews refueled and were quickly back to complete the ivy demolition. Much of the afternoon consisted of mixing the existing soil with fresh mushroom soil for added nutrients. Many hands made for light work, and two truckloads of soil were quickly distributed.

Crews tackled this big root ball.

Crews tackled this big root ball.

Upon completion, this future garden will be a pollinator pit stop filled with Pennsylvania native wildflowers and shrubs. We will also plant common milkweed and butterfly weed to create habitat for the monarch butterfly. For park visitors, an informative wayside will share the importance of these pollinators for our flowers, home gardens, and agricultural crops. Stayed tuned for news as we make progress on this project, and for more amazing work from our SCA crews, staff, and partners. Take a look below at the before and after photos; we did some great work!

Philadelphia Flower Show: Presenting Pollinators!

Yesterday, I had the incredible opportunity to speak about monarch butterflies, pollinators, and native plants at the Gardener’s Studio at the Philadelphia Flower Show! The incredible audience was very receptive and excited to bring home materials that would help attract pollinators to their home gardens.  With the support of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, we were able to share the story of the monarch butterfly with nearly 300 people.

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On stage at the Gardener’s Studio!

After explaining how monarchs and pollinators are essential to our agricultural crops, flowers, and ecosystems, participants in the audience dove at the opportunity to create seed balls and bee bundles to take and use at home. Gardener Studio attendees made about 250 seed balls, containing Pennsylvania native wildflower seeds, which will contribute to the restoration of pollinator habitat. Throwing the seed balls into a sunny spot is all it takes, no maintenance required! This hands-on activity was a hit, especially with kids that wanted to get a little messy.

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Lamar Gore, John Heinz Refuge Manager, demonstrates the optimal seed ball strategy.

Bee bundles were constructed by cutting up sections of Japanese Knotweed, an invasive plant, and tying several sections together. The plant stems contain diaphragms that allow solitary bees, like the mason bee, to burrow in for shelter.  Hanging the bee bundles near the garden encourages bees to linger and pollinate garden vegetables and flowers.  Re-purposing the invasive knotweed was another great opportunity to discuss the importance of native plants to our local wildlife.


Participants making a bee bundle

IMG_0776 (1)The audience had so many great questions about the monarch life cycle and great migration. They were eager to learn how to help out these beautiful butterflies and we quickly distributed 200 packets of common milkweed seeds, the monarch’s host plant. I had a blast sharing the story of the monarch with others, and I was lucky enough to visit the National Park exhibits and Butterflies Live after the presentation!


Me at the Butterflies Live exhibit.

Click here to learn more about the monarch butterfly and what you can do to protect this iconic species.